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J Exp Biol. 2018 Oct 4;221(Pt 19). pii: jeb186163. doi: 10.1242/jeb.186163.

Heterogeneity of neuromasts in a fish without lateral line canals: the pufferfish (Takifugu obscurus) model.

Li C1,2,3, Wang X1,2,3, Wu J4, Zhang X1,2,3, Fan C1,2,3, Guo H1,2,3, Song J5,2,3.

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Institute for Marine Biosystem and Neuroscience, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai 201306, China.
National Demonstration Center for Experimental Fisheries Science Education (Shanghai Ocean University), Shanghai 201306, China.
International Research Center for Marine Biosciences at Shanghai Ocean University, Ministry of Science and Technology, Shanghai 201306, China.
Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20007, USA.
Institute for Marine Biosystem and Neuroscience, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai 201306, China


Fish detect water motion with their mechanosensory lateral line. The basic functional unit of the lateral line is the neuromast. In most fish species, neuromasts are located in lateral line canals (canal neuromasts) or on the skin (superficial neuromasts). In this paper, we describe the lateral line system of the pufferfish, Takifugu obscurus If threatened, this fish inflates its body by sucking water into the esophagus. Pufferfish lack a canal system but have neuromasts located directly on the skin or in open grooves. Each groove houses tall, medium and short neuromasts, based on the height of their pedestal. One or more medium neuromasts were always located between two tall neuromasts, and the short neuromasts were scattered between them. Tall neuromasts showed phasic responses to water jets, similar to the canal neuromasts of other fish species. In contrast, the medium and short neuromasts showed tonic responses to water jets. The response properties of nerve fibers that innervated the medium and short neuromasts were similar to those of the superficial neuromasts found in other fish species. Our results suggest that each groove of a pufferfish has two functional groups of neuromasts. This may allow pufferfish to extract spatial and temporal hydrodynamic information, despite the changes in body shape that occur during and after inflation. The short neuromasts at the bottom of a groove most likely supplement the medium neuromasts when the body is maximally inflated.


Lateral line groove; Medium neuromast; Neuromast pedestal; Short neuromast; Tall neuromast

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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